Monday, September 12, 2011

Philadelphia Flyers 2011-12 Preview

What can fans expect from the re-vamped Philadelphia Flyers?
The Flyers have undergone a massive transformation in the off-season. Gone are Richards, Carter, Leino, Versteeg, Zherdev, O’Donnell, Carcillo and Boucher—just to name a few.

As far as new faces go, Jaromir Jagr headlines a group that includes Braydon Schenn, Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek, Maxime Talbot, and Ilja Bryzgalov.
So what will all these changes mean for the Flyers? Well, Bryzgalov will bring more solid goaltending, and while they will rely upon their returning veteran defencemen, their forwards will rely upon new comers, and youngsters like Van Riemsdyk and Giroux who will be asked to take on leading roles alongside Scott Hartnell and Danny Briere.

With so many new faces, the Flyers may not start the year at full speed, but as chemistry develops amongst the various new forwards, expect Philadelphia’s season to really take shape.

This team is one of the largest wildcards this year. A new goaltender could signify a run for a division title, but the loss of their captain Mike Richards, and Jeff Carter could signify a transition period that may see them struggle. Expect a playoff berth, but on the lower half of the top 8.



Forwards An influx of talent will make line combinations tricky, but it should be an exciting year in Philadelphia.

Claude Giroux
Giroux exploded last year. After a strong playoff, he was pretty consistent all season and looked to take another step forward this year. Replacing Mike Richards as the team’s top center will only do good things for him. Expect at least 80 points.

James Van Riemsdyk The big American winger broke out in last year’s playoffs with 7 goals in 11 games and appeared dominant while doing it. Increased experience and consistency, along with increased ice time will only elevate his stock this year. 30 goals are within reach, as are 60 points.

Danny Briere The extremely talented Briere is one of the elder statesmen amongst the forwards. He will be called upon if the younger players struggle, but do not be concerned about his production. He is crafty and will notch 60-70 points.

Jaromir Jagr Returning to the NHL, Jagr hopes he can rekindle his offensive flair from earlier in his career. He’s not the same player, but still big enough and talented enough to rack up some points. If all goes well, Jagr should reach the 50 point level. There’s potential for more, but let’s not get too carried away. If he struggles early, fan pressure may mount and make life difficult.

Scott Hartnell Hartnell is a heart and soul player who is a consistent 50 point scorer. Hartnell has been around long enough that we should not expect a breakout, but he’s shown that he can score 60+ points if necessary. Look for a more two-way role from him, and 40-50 points once again.

Jakub Voracek Voracek went cold at the end of the year, but did accumulate 45 points in 64 games before that. He has tremendous potential and 50 points are attainable. That being said, he’ll have to earn his ice time on a deeper club. Columbus could afford him a lot of opportunity, but he’ll have to fight for time against other talented players.

Braydon Schenn Perhaps the best prospect, and front runner for the Calder Trophy, Schenn was dealt to the Flyers in the off-season and looks to make an impact this year. He has nothing left to prove in the minors and is ready. 30+ points would not be surprising.

Wayne Simmonds Simmonds is developing into an effective player capable of scoring 40 points and perhaps 20 goals. A feisty winger, he’ll see plenty of ice time and chances.

Defence
Chris Pronger
Pronger suffered from injuries most of last year. If he returns this year, he’ll be the big man on the back end once again. He is still capable of netting 40 points, though his best years are behind him.

Matt Carle As Pronger and Timonen age, Carle and Coburn will assume more senior roles. Carle should receive more offensive opportunities again this year, and 40 points are possible.

Goaltending
Ilya Bryzgalov
Acquired from Phoenix, Bryzgalov has a personality that will endear him to fans, but the pressure will be on him to produce. The Flyers have needed an all-star goaltender for a generation it seems, so expectations will be high. Expect him to have some struggles, but a decent year overall

Prediction - 33 Wins

Sergei Bobrovsky Bob was not able to hang onto his starting job after last year, but he’s a decent goalie with potential for more in the future. If Bryzgalov falters, Bobrovsky will be there.

Prediction - 12 wins

TOP SLEEPER Jakub Voracek Voracek had a tremendous start to the year with Columbus last season before cooling off late.

If he can demonstrate some season-long consistency, and perhaps a spot on a line with fellow countryman Jaromir Jagr, Voracek could blossom.

Even if Voracek doesn’t play with Jagr, an assignment with Briere and Hartnell could be an interesting combination. Either way, he’s a talented, strong forward with gallons of potential.

TOP ROOKIE F— Braydon Schenn Schenn`s arrival in the NHL has been much anticpated. This year, the Flyers will give him a shot at earning a spot on the roster.

The talented rookie is one of the best prospects in hockey, and he very much appears to be a ‘can’t miss’ prospect. Expect big things in the coming years for Schenn, and for him to get rolling as early as this season.

Potential Breakout PlayerJames Van Riemsdyk
‘JVR’ showed signs in the playoffs last year and at times throughout the season that he can be a star in the NHL.

Dominant at times, he uses his size and speed to keep defenders on their heels, and possesses an accurate, solid shot.

The departure of Carter and Richards have created two full-time top six forward positions, and Van Riemsdyk is penciled in at one of those spots.

If he plays alongside Giroux, he could hit 35 goals this season.



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